Weave a terrific tale.

Move #8 in a series of “9 Best Moves” to achieve development goals and maximize fundraising success.

There’s an ancient tale (1,001 Arabian Nights) about a brave young woman named Scheherazade. Determined to stop the king from marrying then murdering a new wife each day, she concocted a plan. Scheherazade volunteered to marry the king. Once in his chambers, she began to weave a story of magic, mystery and adventure . . .

Nothing hooks my heart into a message faster than a story. A narrative, told with passion, opens hearts and minds to sharing a reality. The story-reality is a way of:


  • connecting us to the character,
  • co-experiencing their feelings, and
  • building more personal relationships with donors. 

Report on the ministry “drama” in real time.

When Haiti was crushed by a devastating earthquake, Global Aid Network president, Duane Zook, was immediately at ground zero to broadcast eyewitness accounts to donors via the organization’s website and through email. Donations soared!

Help your donors “experience” your ministry on an emotional level.

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s president, Jeff Lilley, often rides along in the Mission’s rescue van on Friday nights, bringing blankets and hot food to the homeless of that city. He tells his stories from authentic experience — and through his narrative, ministry partners ride along with him to see and feel what he experiences.

Beyond reaching a donor’s hearts, communications built on the framework of narrative help to:

  • Organize thought: Events are easier to follow when they flow naturally along a logical time line.
  • Clarify concepts: Stories help the reader visualize complex ideas such as community, change and need.
  • Improve understanding: Awareness grows when you reveal the reasons behind people’s behavior in situations which may be outside the reader’s personal experience.

So, allow your donors to participate in your ministry via their imagination. When they feel what you feel, they become ministry partners, not just donors. But you never want to give it all away. Always leave your donor with a need to hear more . . .

The night passed by and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of her story. The homicidal King begged her to finish, but Scheherazade told him there was no time left. “But what will become of Sinbad the Sailor in the valley of the giant snakes and man-eating elephants?” he cried. She reminded her husband that dawn had come. Her end was imminent. Stirred by her story, and anxious to hear more, the King spared her life for another day . . . and 1,001 more Arabian nights!

Check back next week to learn about Best Move #9: Turning up the volume in design can sometimes create noise rather than beautiful music. Or enter your email address above to get updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Read: Best Move #7: Toss out the old playbook.  With digital, just about everything has changed.